Despite rains, by the last week of October the entire state remained in one stage of drought or another, with more than 70 percent under severe to exceptional drought conditions, according the U.S drought monitor.
Though the rains greened up pastures and rangeland, and gave winter wheat producers some hope, forage and hay remained scare throughout the state, according to AgriLife Extension county agent reports.
As a result, livestock producers are looking more to alternatives such as whole cottonseed, said Mark Brown, AgriLife Extension agent in Lubbock County.
“Cottonseed is selling for an amazing $340 per ton due to feed shortages and short supply,” Brown reported.
A lot of producers today would be glad to pay $340 per ton – if they could find it at that price, said Dr. Ellen Jordan, AgriLife Extension dairy specialist based in Dallas. It’s all about supply and demand, and the drought.
“Demand is going to surpass cottonseed supply this year by far,” Jordan said.
“Not only do we have the dairies looking for cottonseed, but people are looking for cottonseed to extend their forage supply to their beef cattle.”
Regional feed prices in Comanche were $398 and $393 per ton in Friona on Oct. 26 – 27, Jordan noted.
On an average year, when demand isn’t so high and there’s a better cotton crop, prices usually hover around $200 per ton, she said.
There is a limit to how much cottonseed can be safely fed to a large ruminant such as a dairy or beef cow, Jordan cautioned.
“If you feed more than about eight pounds per cow per day, there can be some reproductive and other issues,” she said. “Those are the levels that we put as the maximum for dairy cattle, but all cattle will have issues with feeding too high a level of cottonseed. We usually feed it at a rate of about five pounds (of whole cottonseed) per head per day.”
More information on the current Texas drought and wildfire alerts can be found on the AgriLife Extension Agricultural Drought Task Force website at http://agrilife.tamu.edu/drought/ .
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:Central: Small grains began to show signs of drought stress. Cool-season annual pasture grasses emerged with the recent rains. However, without more rain soon, those newly emerged grasses were expected to die. Many trees were losing leaves months before they usually go dormant. Beef producers were still dealing with high hay demand and expensive feed, but continued to supplement cattle.
Coastal Bend: Dry weather continued to deplete topsoil moisture. Some farmers were tilling fields. Rain earlier in October helped wheat and oats. Other fields germinated but needed rain to survive. Farmers were cautioned to watch armyworms. Most producers were not applying fertilizer due to the dry conditions. Cattle sales slowed but were expected to pick up again as the prospects of a wet winter are slim.
East: Conditions remained droughty despite recent showers. Some areas received as much as 2 inches, while others were passed over. Even where there was rain, winter forages were only marginally improved. Ponds and creeks remained low or had dried up completely. Producers continued purchasing hay from out of state. Livestock producers were still culling herds due to shortages of hay and water. Armyworms remained a problem. Feral hog activity increased.
Far West: A cold front brought a trace of rain. Cool season forbs were regrowing from precipitation received earlier in October. The cotton harvest was nearly finished, and fall-planted onions were already emerged. Windy days caused an early drop of pecans, many still in shucks. Some varieties were splitting shucks and ripening while others were still green. Producers continued to feed livestock because rangeland and pastures were in very poor condition. Winter wheat did not seem to be making a good stand.
North: Deep soil-moisture levels remained short to very short, but topsoil moisture was improved by 1 inch to 3 inches of rain received in the last two weeks. The rain allowed recently planted small grains to emerge. Heavy dews during most nights also promoted greening up. Many cattlemen were planting ryegrass and legumes hoping for some spring grazing. Winter wheat was up to a good start in some areas. Stock water tanks and ponds were extremely low or completely dry throughout the region.
Panhandle: The region received its first snow – as much as 4 inches — and cold front of the season. Actual moisture received ranged from a trace to about 2 inches. Soil-moisture levels were still very short to adequate with most counties reporting very short to short. The corn harvest was ongoing, and the cotton harvest began. Wheat growers continued planting. Rangeland and pastures were in from very poor to good condition, with most counties reporting very poor to poor. Livestock producers continued supplemental feeding of cattle.
Rolling Plains: The region had its first significant cold front of the season. The cold front was accompanied by rain, from 0.5 inch to 2 inches in some areas, and some snow in Motley County. The moisture was a boon to stressed winter wheat, pastures and hay fields. Some cotton producers planted wheat in failed cotton acres in hopes of growing grazing for cattle producers. Other cotton producers were waiting on a freeze. The harvesting of early defoliated cotton was completed. Peanut producers began harvesting but were seeing below-average yields. With market prices up, beef cattle producers who had been holding onto calves were considering selling. Some producers were shipping cattle to leased pastures in states to the north, while others culled their cowherds to sustainable stocking levels.
South: Soil-moisture levels remained short to very short. Strong winds, warm days and cool nights, and lack of rain dried up any residual soil moisture from rain received a few weeks ago. Growth of rangeland and pasture grasses was stunted by the dry weather. More livestock were taken to auction barns, as livestock producers became further concerned about there being not enough forage production to help carry herds through the winter. The difficulty of finding hay, especially good quality hay, was also of great concern. Peanut harvesting began in Atascosa County and was in full swing in Frio County. Frio County producers were also baling peanut hay and planting wheat and oats. In Zavala County, spinach, cabbage and onion producers were actively irrigating. Also in that area, the pecan harvest was very active, but producers reported below-average yields due to severe heat and drought during the nut development stage. In Hidalgo County, the sugarcane and early orange harvest continued.
South Plains: The region received some rain — and even snow. The cotton harvest was ongoing, wheat growers were planting and the corn harvest was winding down. Gins were keeping up with harvest with about 50 percent of the usual volume for the season. Cottonseed was selling for $340 per ton due to feed shortages and short supplies. Many counties had the first freeze of the year on Oct. 28. Daytime highs ranged from the 40s to the 80s during the week. Rangeland and pastures began to recover a little here and there because of light rains in the last two weeks. Livestock were mostly in fair to good condition with producers continuing to supply supplemental feed. With short hay supplies and other increased costs, producers expected to be forced to sell more cattle.
Southeast: Though a few areas received light rains, dry conditions were the rule throughout most of the region There was some hay harvested because of a rain received in early October, but yields were low. Some producers were baling regrowth grain sorghum and rice stubble as hay. Liberty county remained dry. Pasture conditions were extremely poor with the exception of a few better-managed pastures that were in fair condition. Some wheat was planted and was in fair condition. Soybeans were in poor condition.
Southwest: Soil moisture remained very short, which resulted in poor rangeland conditions. Dry, cool fronts brought lower temperatures but only a trace of moisture to a few counties. The western and northern parts of the region had the first frost of the season.
West Central: The region had warm weather until Oct. 27. Then a cold front brought cool days and nights along with some moisture. After the rains, field activity increased. Most producers were planting small grains as fast as they could. Some wheat was emerging because of the rain. Rangeland and pastures continued to show some improvement after the rain. Livestock and wildlife were feeding on winter forbs and browse plants. All producers continued to provide supplemental feed to livestock. Hay was hard to find and very expensive when it was obtainable. Stock tanks were in good condition because of runoff from the rains. Producers continued to cull herds.